Mali, Central African Republic: behind the democratic alibi, imperialist war

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As capitalist society slowly unravels, its inner nature as a war of each against all comes openly to the surface, and takes on a particularly savage form in its weakest regions, where pogroms, inter-ethnic  and inter-religious violence threaten the basic social fabric. In the Middle East, in Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria, the divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims has been deepened by a series of suicide attacks by al-Qaida type groups on Shia mosques and gatherings. In Africa, the ‘world’s youngest state’, South Sudan, is collapsing into a horrific chaos marked by massacres between Nuer and Dinka tribal groups; in the Central African Republic, Muslim and Christian gangs vie with each other in brutality. But as this article written by our French comrades shows, these expressions of barbarism at the local level are exacerbated and even manipulated by the bigger imperialist powers who are seeking to defend their own interests at all costs. In Syria, for example, the forces on the ground are sustained by players on the global arena: Assad’s Shia/Alawite regime by Iran, Russia and China; the ‘moderate’ Sunni rebels by the US and Britain, and the radical (Sunni) Islamists by countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In the Central African Republic, France has been supporting Muslim militias against their own former pawn who had turned for help to the rival South African imperialism, which is in turn backed by China. The permutations and alliances change constantly, but what doesn’t go away is the way that imperialist powers will make use of any local dictator, army or armed gang in the never-ending struggle against their rivals.  WR, 11.1.14

Peace does not reign in Mali! On the contrary, French imperialism is getting more and more dragged into the chaos there. But at the same time France has decided to intervene in the nearby Central African Republic, in order, it claims, to “protect” the population and “re-establish order and allow an improvement in the humanitarian situation”. The media have been showing images of the massacres taking place in the CAR, with the US state department talking about a “pre-genocidal” situation. But the press doesn’t talk about the responsibility of France in the explosion of this barbarism, even though France has long been an active factor in the crimes committed in its former colonies and spheres of influence (the Rwandan genocide being a prime example[1]).

Regarding Mali, contrary to the lying statements by François Hollande, there has been no “victory over the terrorist groups”. France has certainly obliged the Malian cliques to organise ‘free and democratic’ elections (presidential last August and legislative in November) in order to “restore the Malian state and ensure peace”, but this propaganda is at total variance with the facts.

Radio silence on the new war in Mali

Why commit 1500 soldiers to this ‘reconquest’ of North Mali? Supplemented by some elements of the Malian army and the UN African force whose French officers deplore ‘their lack of fighting spirit and their mediocre equipment’. Finally, what a bizarre idea to have baptised this new French engagement ‘Operation Hydra’, referring to the seven-headed serpent whose heads grow back after being chopped off… In fact, combat planes have been intervening regularly and there have been some tough battles near Gao and the border with Niger… in Bamako, when Admiral Guillard (head of the French forces) talked shop with general Marc Fourcaud, commander of the French expeditionary force, he carefully avoided fixing a date for the end of their intervention: ‘ we need to increase our adaptability, imagination and vigilance in the face of an enemy that is willing to fight to the end’. That’s another way of saying that this is not ‘a simple counter-terrorist action’ as claimed by Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister of defence” (Le Canard enchaîné, 30.10.13).

Despite the presence of thousands of French and African soldiers and the efforts to track them down, the terrorist groups have carried out three murderous attacks since September 2013. Particularly elaborate was the raid on 23 October at Tessalit in the north east of Mali, against the Chadian soldiers of the integrated UN mission for the stabilisation of Mali (Minusma); this tells us a great deal about the capacity for resistance of Aqmi and Mujao” (Courrier international 7-13.11.13)

To this can be added a series of murderous clashes between the Malian army and the nationalist forces of the NMLA over control of the town of Kidal, not counting the bloody hostage-taking and suicide bombings which regularly hit the civilian population.

All this confirms that in Mali there is still a brutal war going on between the Islamist gangs and the gangs acting in defence of order and democracy, all of them hungry for blood and economic gain, all of them cynically sowing death and desolation among the populations of the Sahel.

Hollande and French imperialism dive into the Central African quagmire

Since March 2013, the Central African Republic has been sinking into nightmarish disorder, following the military coup piloted by a coalition of rebels calling itself the Seleka, which ousted former president Francois Bozizé, who also came to power in a putsch. He was replaced by Michael Djotodia[2]. Once in power, the armed groups got down to murder, rape, pillage of resources like gold and diamonds and all kinds of rackets. To escape this monstrous carnage, hundreds of thousands of people have had to leave their homes and take refuge either in the forest or in neighbouring countries. But it’s not just the former rebels, now in power, who are sowing terror – the partisans of the former president are doing the same[3].  All this is happening under the indifferent gaze of hundreds of French soldiers who have limited themselves to counting the dead. No doubt haunted by the ‘Rwandan experience’, when it was accused of complicity in the genocide, French imperialism has launched itself into a new intervention in Central Africa.

“It’s just a matter of days; France will launch a military operation in the Central African Republic.  ‘A precise operation, limited in time, aimed at re-establishing order and allowing an improvement of the humanitarian situation’ indicated a source from the ministry of defence” (Le Monde 23.11.13)    

At the time of writing, the French government has announced that it will be sending another 1000 troops to reinforce the 400 already there.

The criminal responsibilities of France in Central Africa

This is a country which Paris knows well, the best as well as the worst . It is almost a caricature of what used to be called ‘Françafrique’. A state where France made and unmade regimes, replacing dictators escaping its control with others more malleable. In recent months we have seen the mysterious visits to Bangui by Claude Guéant and Jean-Christophe Mitterand, two figures of a moribund ‘Françafrique’” (Le Monde 28.11.13)

The French gendarme has again set out on the road to Bangui to re-establish its neo-colonial order, but contrary to the big lies of the Hollande government, this is not to “allow an improvement of the humanitarian situation” or because of the “extraordinary exactions” going on there. Because just a year ago the French authorities were averting their eyes from some “abominable acts” in the CAR and there has been a grand media silence about them up to now. And for good reason. The French government is not at all at ease denouncing the massacres and mutilations being suffered by the population of the CAR. Let’s not forget that François Bozizé, who came to power in 2003 via a coup directed from afar by Paris, was overthrown at the end of March 2012 by a coalition of armed groups (the ‘Seleka’) covertly supported by France. In reality, French imperialism made use of these armed gangs to get rid of the former ‘dictator’ who had been getting away from their control:

Jakob Zuma didn’t hesitate for a moment to rush to the aid of Central African president François Bozizé when the latter, threatened by an armed rebellion, appealed to him in December 2012. The fact that Bozizé has been abandoned by France and is supported in a rather ambiguous way by his Francophone neighbours – which are seen as so many neo-colonies by Pretoria – increased South Africa’s determination to intervene. In one week, 400 soldiers from the South African Defence Forces (SANDF) were transported to Bangui. Installed in local police stations but also in Bossembele and Bossangoa in the centre of the country, they have had no contact either with the multinational African forces on the spot, or with the UN, or with the French contingent. Jakob Zuma doesn’t have to report to anyone. And the big Chinese firms, who have been operating in secret in the north east of the CAR, where there are much-sought after oil reserves, are not complaining. They are counting on South African protection to make their first searches”. (Jeune Afrique, 10.03.13)

Here we see the real reason for the abandonment of ex-President Bozizé: he betrayed his French masters by getting into bed with South Africa, a declared rival of France behind whom, barely concealed, stands China, a redoubtable rival for the oil resources of the country. However, given the defence agreements between France and the CAR (which among other things allows a permanent French military presence in the CAR), Hollande should have supported Bozizé when he appealed to him. Instead of that, the French president decided to punis’ his former dictator friend by all possible means, which included permitting the advance of the blood-soaked Séléka gangs towards the presidential palace, which had previously been surrounded by hundreds of French troops.

We can measure the cynicism of Francois Hollande when he now says that “there have been some abominable actions in the Central African Republic. There’s chaos, serious and extraordinary exactions. We have to act”.

This is the hypocritical language aimed at camouflaging and justifying the abominable crimes which the former colonial power is ready to commit in the CAR, at masking its complicity with the various murderous gangs who are ravaging the country.

Clearly the Hollande government doesn’t give a damn about what happens to the populations of Central Africa, Mali, or elsewhere. What it does care about is defending the interests of the national capital in one of the last bastions of French imperialism, the Sahel, a highly strategic zone replete with raw materials, in the face of the other imperialist sharks challenging for influence in the region.  Amina 29.11.13

[2]. Since this article was written, Djotodia has himself resigned, prompting new disorders in the capital.


[3]. This conflict has taken on an inter-religious form because the Seleka is mainly Muslim and has been carrying out atrocities against Christians. This led to the formation of the “anti-balaka”, Christian militias who have in turn been attacking Muslims and destroying mosques.